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Genetically modified tobacco plant produces cocaine in its leaves

Researchers have reproduced the entire biochemical pathway for how coca plants make cocaine in another plant, which could help people manufacture the drug for scientific study

Chemistry 25 November 2022

A small pile of cocaine

Cocaine is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant

Alamy Stock Photo

The complex biochemistry that sees coca plants make cocaine has been unpicked and replicated in a relative of the tobacco plant. Recreating the process by modifying other plants or microorganisms could lead to a way to manufacture the stimulant or produce chemically similar compounds with unique properties.

Biochemists have tried to map out how cocaine is made by the coca plant for more than a century, both because of its unique structure and for its uses in medicine, most recently as …